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School-zone speed camera sites could increase by the hundreds in NYC

A state bill would dramatically raise the number

A state bill would dramatically raise the number of city school-zone speed camera sites, such as the one on Utopia Parkway in Queens. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The city’s speed camera program would be expanded to 750 school zones under new state legislation introduced in Albany Monday.

The bill, scoring sponsors in both the Senate and Assembly, would raise the current cap of 140 school-zone camera locations citywide while also giving the city greater flexibility in its camera deployment and hours of operation.

“This is about saving children’s lives,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens), the Senate sponsor of the bill, who rallied behind the legislation at the capitol Monday alongside transit advocates. “It’s about making sure that our school children, teachers and parents are protected at our schools.”

Despite concerns from some state lawmakers, who believe the program to be a city cash grab, Peralta said he was confident the bill could be passed during this legislative session.

That would be a win for Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor views the cameras as a key part of Vision Zero, his effort to eliminate traffic deaths, and he has advocated for the state to lift current restrictions. In the first three years of Vision Zero, traffic deaths declined by 22 percent, while, nationally, such deaths have increased.

“I think the good news is now we have a program where we have real results,” said Polly Trottenberg, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation. “We’re bucking the national trend.”

To those who view the cameras as traps, Trottenberg stressed that about 80 percent of people who receive a $50 fine from the cameras don’t receive a second ticket.

Under current laws, cameras can operate during school hours or after-school student activities. The state determines the number of speed camera locations and the city picks the specific spots.

The new legislation would expand operations to a definitive window of time: between 6 a.m and 10 p.m., seven days a week.

If the legislation passes, it would require the city to install warning signs within 300 feet of a camera to alert drivers. It would also mandate that a camera cannot be placed within 300 feet of a highway exit.

While there are more than 2,000 schools citywide eligible for cameras, the DOT estimates, advocates were satisfied with the progress.

“Less speeding means fewer injuries, fewer deaths, and less severe crashes,” said Paul Steely White, executive director at Transportation Alternatives, in a statement. “It’s a simple, cost-effective, fair way to tackle a problem that is killing New Yorkers.”

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